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The board of the Dutch Research Council’s institute organisation has appointed Dr Jessica Dempsey as director of ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

Published by the editorial team, 14 December 2021

The appointment is the result of an international recruitment campaign. “Dempsey was selected for a well-established and broad track record in the three main areas of ASTRON: astronomy, instrumentation in radio astronomy and observatory operations”, according to prof. Marcel Levi, chairman of the board of the Dutch Research Council (NWO). “She is a world-renowned scientist and has successfully led an astronomical institution in a complex international environment with many partners and with a very active attitude towards more inclusion, equality and diversity.”

Portrait of Jessica Dempsey
Dr. Jessica Dempsey

Dempsey has a background in radio interferometry and is currently deputy director of the East Asian Observatory in Hawaii, USA. There she established international partnerships and expanded funding opportunities for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT). Her scientific focus is on wide-field surveys of the diverse molecules in the galaxy at radio wavelengths.

"It is an incredible honour to be offered this opportunity to work with the dedicated and extremely talented ASTRON team. Having worked for over a decade at the JCMT, Dutch built and operated for a large part of that time, it feels a bit like coming home. ASTRON and the broader Dutch astronomical community are world leaders in so many areas of cutting-edge astronomy and the next decade promises even greater opportunities and frontiers for ASTRON and the Netherlands. I'm excited to be a part of that adventure", says Dempsey.

The new director has a passionate commitment to creating greater diversity, equity and opportunity at all levels of astronomy and to enhancing opportunities for girls to become future leaders in science and technology careers. Dempsey was the first Australian female scientist to work at the geographic South Pole, where she spent five summers building site-testing instruments and a robotic telescope before wintering at the South Pole station in 2005 for the Arcminute Cosmology Bolometer Array Receiver cosmic microwave background (ACBAR CMB) experiment. She was also a member of the Breakthrough Prize winning Event Horizon Telescope team, who captured an image of a black hole for the first time.


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